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Upfront and Personal: Something new for Discovery nets

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Upfront and Personal: Something new for Discovery nets

RecentlyDiscovery Communications Inc.CEO David Zaslav has been championingthe diversification of the company's intellectual property from beyond thenonscripted arena.

Withathletics including its pan-European sports service Eurosport and its successwith the kids business in Latin America, the company's linear networks will beshowcasing new forms in the months ahead.

AtDiscovery's upfront press breakfast in New York on March 31, executivesdiscussed ventures placing more emphasis on scripted projects, documentaryfilms and a jump into live investigative programming.

Discovery: Something old,something new

,after taking the scripted miniseries plunge with "Klondike" in 2014,is revving up for the bow this Labor Day weekend of its second scriptedminiseries with "Harley and the Davidsons," which is based on thetrue story of how Milwaukee schoolyard buddies Bill Harley and Arthur Davidsonbuilt the world famous motorcycle empire.

Thenetwork also is pushing deeper into scripted, as it is working on a full-blownseries about the "Unabomber." "Manifesto" will chroniclethe FBI's ultimate capture of Ted Kaczynski, who terrorized the nation in the1980s and 1990s, from the point of view of an agency profiler. The series willtrace how FBI agent Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald challenged the "oldschool" ways with his radical new approach to intelligence gathering.

ButDiscovery is not abandoning its traditional scientific programming roots,though the documentary format will be higher profile on the network.

RichRoss, group president of Discovery, AnimalPlanet (US) and Science(US), talked about Discovery's continued commitment toenvironmental and conservation initiatives with the launch of "DiscoveryImpact," an anthology showcase for documentary films. The launch of thisplatform follows the global broadcast in 2015 of "Racing Extinction,"cable's most-watched documentary in three years.

Scheduledfor May 19, "Sonic Sea" will be the first doc to bow under theDiscovery Impact banner. Narrated by Rachel McAdams, "Sonic Sea"highlights the continued emergence of noise pollution in the oceans and thoseworking to prevent its harmful impact on marine wildlife.

"Sonic Sea"
Source: Discovery

"ToucanNation," set for a July 30 debut, meanwhile, follows Grecia, an abusedtoucan that was left to die in Costa Rica that sparked international outrageand a national welfare movement.

Inkeeping with the conservationist theme, premiering Aug. 4, "Drought,"from five Academy Award-winning filmmakers, looks at the water crisis out westthat is impacting 40% of the U.S. population.

Overall,Discovery for the 2016-17 TV season plans 22 returning series and 20 new ones,including survival competition show, "The Wheel"; "DeadliestCatch: Dungeon Cove"; and "Sacred Steel," which takes a driveinside a unique motorcycle club that makes one-of-kind pieces of art.

TLC says "I Am"

TLC,which officials touted as a top 10 ad-supported cable network in primetime withwomen 25 to 54 for a decade, is also getting into the scripted series business,working with Tyler Perry Studios, whose "The Haves and the Have Nots"and "If Loving You is Wrong" series have bolstered the ratingsfortunes of OWN: OprahWinfrey Network (US), Discovery's joint venture with the celebrityand media entrepreneur.

Aneight-episode drama slated for the second half of 2016, Perry's "Too Closeto Home" centers on a young woman who escaped her working class roots tobecome a player on the Washington, D.C., political circuit. However, after asteamy affair with a married senator makes national headlines, she is forced toreturn back to her trailer park beginnings.

NancyDaniels, president of TLC and Discovery Life, noting TLC's past success with "TradingSpaces," said the network is revisiting the home and property space with alook at star design couple Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent and their daughter,Poppy. Providing glimpses of their family life, "Married to Design: Nate& Jeremiah" also will see the couple helping distressed homeownersturn their money pits into dream homes.

In "ProjectPlayhouse," Tyson and Audy Leavitt create the most elaborate, over-the-topplayhouses from pirate ships and castles from their family-run shop, while in "HiddenMoney Makeover" design expert Jill Martin and handyman Gage Cass showpeople around the country how to transform their clutter into enhancedresidences.

ID's "Hard Evidence: OJ Is Innocent"
Source: Discovery

TLCthis summer will also launch a new brand campaign using the theme "I Am,"to underline individuals' different values and support them against bullies andcritics. Featuring TLC talent like Theresa Caputo, Kate Gosselin, JazzJennings, Whitney Thore, the casts of "Sister Wives" and "LittlePeople, Big World," and others, the initiative embraces flaws andstrengths as a means to empower self-definition. Daniels said there areopportunities for sponsors to attach themselves to the campaign on linear,digital and social platforms.

ID series says O.J.didn't do it

Forits part, InvestigationDiscovery (US) will move into the active investigation seriesbusiness for the first time on June 6, with "The Vanishing Women."Henry Schleiff, group president of ID, said the network is following lawenforcement officials investigating the disappearance of six young women whohave either been found dead or gone missing over the past 18 months in thesmall community of Chillicothe, Ohio. The six-part series aspires to bringattention to the cases and aid the effort to solve them.

IDis also tackling the O.J. Simpson subgenre, with its own six-part "HardEvidence: OJ Is Innocent," which will offer new evidence that Simpson infact did not kill his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman andthat what most people believe to be true about the "crime of the century"is false. It is executive-produced and narrated by Emmy award-winning MartinSheen and slated to run early in 2017.

Schleiffsaid that ID in 2016 will match the 650 hours of premieres it presented in2015, meaning the network will feature at least one hour of fresh fare inprimetime virtually every night.

Discoveryofficials said ID closed out 2015 as the top cable network in total-daydelivery of women 25 to 54.